Avon Products, Inc. recently marked its 120th anniversary. The company was founded in 1886 by traveling salesman David H. McConnell, who accompanied the books he sold to female customers with bottles of perfume. In the tradition of the first "Avon lady," Mrs. P.F.E. Albee of Winchester, New Hampshire, more than five million representatives continue to sell Avon products today.
MORE.com spoke to three over-40 women who have turned selling beauty products into life-changing careers.
Sue Mazza, 48, Naperville, Illinois
Former career: Advertising salesNew title: Senior Executive Unit Leader (oversees 600 reps) and a Certified Beauty Adviser Trainer for Avon
Q. You used to work in advertising. What made you want to change careers?A. When I had my second daughter, I realized that the cost of childcare was going to be outrageous, and I wanted to be able to stay at home with my children and still find a way to bring in income.
Q. Why Avon?A. I chose Avon because it’s the number one company in the world for women. We do so much to advance women’s causes, from raising money for breast cancer research to fighting domestic violence. And it has such a strong leadership role for women in the company, from corporate employees all the way down to Avon district managers.
Q. How has this career changed your life?A. I earn as much money now, or more, than I did when I was working full-time for somebody else. But I’m my own boss and I control my schedule. So after this [interview] I’m going shopping. I’ve had three appointments this morning and countless phone calls. But I’m able to, as my own boss, say okay, you can have the afternoon off to go shopping. And I’m able to give back to the community because I have time and money to do those things. It’s something that’s allowed me to change the lives of other women as well as my own.
Lisa Wilber, 43, Weare, New Hampshire
Former career: Convenience store clerk; secretaryNew title: Senior Executive Unit Leader (oversees 2,000 reps) for Avon
Q. You used to work as a secretary. What made you change careers?A. Actually it was my second career change. I worked third shift in a convenience store before getting the secretary job, and I thought that was my big break: to be a secretary. What made me change careers wasn’t anything more than desperation. I got laid off my job in 1987 because of a company downsizing, and I couldn’t find another company to hire me. I couldn’t even get hired by a temp agency, because I didn’t type fast enough. I cried for a week. My husband at the time said, ‘Why don’t you try to do more with that Avon thing that you’ve been playing with?’ So I began researching it and decided that I needed to earn my first trip so that I could meet the other full-time people. And once I went on my first Avon trip and met the other people that were earning big money, that was it for me.
Q. How has your new career changed your life?A. Oh, are you kidding? When I was a secretary, I lived in a trailer park, drove a Yugo, was eating macaroni all the time, was getting my electric shut off. And now, I’m a millionaire. And I just am stunned. I get to do really wild things. In September I got to go to England with Avon and speak at the convention in Birmingham, and they treated me like a rock star. I got first class tickets over there, they put me up in a suite, and I spoke for 10 minutes and got a standing ovation. I mean, where does that happen in real life? It’s a fabulous life, and to come from working third shift in a convenience store to having so many things that I get to experience — it’s just unbelievable that this could have happened.
Q. What advice would you give to other women who are in the same shoes that you used to be in? A. I have such devotion and admiration for the company, but I want to say that it’s people, individually, and their belief in themselves that’s going to make them successful.
Karen Tucker, 49, New Orleans, Louisiana
Title: Senior Executive Unit Leader (oversees 600 reps) for Avon